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Description

Captain McCulloch's company of spies help propel Zachary Taylor into the White House

[Mexican War]. Captain Benjamin McCulloch's Company of Spies,Texas Mounted Volunteers, Muster Roll Signed "Ben McCulloch." Two partially-printed pages, 16" x 20.75" (sight), Agua Nueva, Mexico, January 31, 1847 and February 16, 1847. Shortly after the American victory at the Battle of Monterrey (September 1846), Gen. Zachary Taylor allowed the opposing force to leave the city with their arms in exchange for the city's surrender under the terms of an eight week armistice. The volunteer troops, who came mostly from Texas and whose enlistment period was nearly up, believed that the conflict was over and requested a discharge. Taylor acquiesced and the Texans were mustered out of service to return back across the border. Texas Ranger Ben McCulloch, who was in command of Company "A," First Regiment, Texas Mounted Rifles, requested a furlough "with the understanding that if hostilities were renewed he would recruit a new spy company and return to the army." (Dawson, pp. 63-64) By November, President Polk negated the truce and ordered Taylor to prepare for further offensive maneuvers.

McCulloch was forced to return and fulfill his vow to Taylor. He had some difficulty in finding men to accompany him to Mexico as support for the war was waning, only recruiting twenty-six in the process. The group arrived in late January 1847, refusing "to enlist for the war, as was required, or even for twelve months, but Taylor was in great need of them, [and] accepted their services for six months." (Webb, p. 64) While it is unusual that they would receive a condensed term of enlistment, shortened service was not unheard of. Early volunteers from Texas who joined up with Gen. Taylor "came as three months' volunteers," (Webb, p. 59) despite the "act of Congress approved May 13, 1846" (which is marked through on this muster) forcing volunteers to "serve twelve months . . . , or to the end of the war, unless sooner discharged."

The roll contains a list of twenty-seven names (including McCulloch's) with each man's corresponding rank, age, date and place of enlistment, number of miles travelled to meet Taylor's army, value for horses and equipment (in dollars), and additional remarks. According to the roll, four men were "Absent - Sick at Saltillo" and McCulloch is noted as also serving as "Qr. Master U.S. Volunteer Service," himself providing two horses. McCulloch has signed on the verso, at lower left, certifying that the roll "exhibits the true state of Captain Ben McCulloch's Company of Spies." Twice countersigned by General William G. Belknap (1794-1851), a veteran of the War of 1812 and Second Seminole War, as acting inspector general of Taylor's army. Folds exhibit moderate toning and are weak, separating at the intersections with minor loss of paper. Slight ink bleed through from the verso. Moderate to heavy soiling at the upper left corner of the verso. Signatures are bold and bright. Matted and framed to an overall size of 23" x 28".

After rejoining Taylor's Army of Occupation, McCulloch and six of his men, five of whom were Texas Rangers, were sent to Encarnacion to investigate rumors of Santa Anna's advance at the head of an army of 15,000 men. The men reached their destination and, under cover of darkness, snuck past the Mexican pickets to observe "the length of the camp, and in that way arrived at an estimate of the Mexican force." (Webb, p. 67) The information was immediately relayed to Taylor and proved vital in the subsequent American victory at the Battle of Buena Vista two days later. For his action, McCulloch was promoted to major. He and his men served the remainder of their six months and returned home.

Reference: Joseph G. Dawson. The Texas Military Experience. 2010; Walter Prescott Webb. The Texas Rangers in the Mexican War. 1975.


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Auction Dates
September, 2013
21st
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